Gerald Veasley
Home Vital Data Projects Bass Bootcamp Merchandise Guestbook Links
 

 

Gerald Vesley Signature Bass

News Tour Multimedia Journal Contact

JOURNAL

September 9
I made it back safe and sound from Johannesburg then immediately went to Washington, D.C. with a delegation of music industry professionals to meet with members of Congress. The event was dubbed "Recording Arts Day" and was spearheaded by the Recording Academy which brought together a broad based coalition of music industry organizations. Our goal was to focus attention on the issues facing our industry such as, Illegal downloading, and piracy. I think Recording Arts Day was successful in sending the message that musicians, recording artists, publishers, managers, and labels are all united in our desire to protect the sanctity of copyrighted music.

From Jo'burg to D.C. Talk about changing gears!

South Africa was great, as usual. I love the people and the culture. After four trips it is really starting to feel very familiar to me. In the fact, the strangest experience I had was looking at the BBC news broadcasts from New Orleans. What I saw on my Johannesburg hotel TV looked more like an African phenomenon than an American one.

Masses of dark skinned people clinging to hope and a sack of their belongings, shouting to an unseen audience on the other side of foreign cameras to do something. We're not accustomed to seeing those images emanating from the richest country on the planet. That's supposed to happen far, far away in a place called the Third World.

Reality check.

This whole event has been disheartening - the wrath and aftermath of Katrina, as well as the feeble reponse of our government.

The only thing that lifts my spirits is seeing the actions of people doing their part to help - particularly kids. They are selling lemonade, having readathons, collecting stuffed animals - doing whatever they can to make a difference.

I'm sorting through various things that I can do. There are lots of ideas, such as concerts and other types of fundraisers being considered. In the meantime, I believe the biggest, immediate need is money. I am donating money to the American Red Cross as a start.

I am hold right now with 1-800-HELP-NOW. The recorded voice asks me to hold on because my call is important. Sometimes when you hear that "your call is important to us" it seems just like a formality.

Not this time.

Try it yourself: 1-800-HELP-NOW. If you don't like the hold music, just hum one of my tunes to pass the time.

September 1, 2005
I am about to land in Johannesburg, South Africa. Whenever I told someone I was taking this trip, invariably they would ask, "How long is that flight?". They don't ask what the people are like, or how is the food or music. Everybody wants to know about the flight.

Here's the answer. The flight from New York to Johannesburg is three meals, two movies, six video games, seventeen songs, and one half of a best-selling novels long.

It's also long enough to have an in-depth conversation with the passenger next to you. Charlie is a South African returning from vacation in Orlando, Las Vegas and New York. He is the owner of a stationary wholesale business, which employs 80 people - no small thing in a country where every job counts. He and his entourage - wife, son, sister-in-law, and two nephews - had a ball in Disney World, and enjoyed Vegas. The only dissapointment was that his son wasn't able to be in the casinos. He's a nine year old poker enthusiast. He was more excited about the prospect of getting tips on Texas Hold 'Em than seeing Mickey Mouse in the flesh - so to speak.

Charlie's wife really enjoyed the multitude of shopping choices in Manhattan. They were wowed by the Nike store. I'm envious, I've never been there.

Most remarkably, this South African family had one pleasure in common, the sense of freedom from crime they felt in New York compared to life in Johannesburg.

"You can wear jewelry in the street there", Charlie remarked in amazement.

His wife added, "I was so afraid for people I saw talking on their mobile phones in their cars, with their windows rolled down. This could never happen in Jo'burg."

As the target of a car jacking she ought to know.

Charlie has done well with his stationary business. He's got a huge house with a tennis court and the most essential accessory in the Johannesburg suburbs, an elaborate security system, complete with eight cameras.

With fear of crime being at the nexus of their life you might expect Charlie's family to be bitter and hardened. Instead, their attitude is stoic.

"The number one problem in my country is poverty. Where there is poverty, of course there's crime."

Well said, Charlie, well said.

August 31, 2005
Job descriptions are fascinating. Take mine, for example: Bass Player. You won't see many listings for this job in your Sunday paper's classified section.

Then again you won't see job openings for Nuclear Physicist either.

This past weekend I encountered a dizzying array of folks with multiple job descriptions.

I already told you about Tammy from the Jazz Cafe in Charlotte. Her business card reads "Public Relations." This is a half-truth in that she also does Artist Relations - meaning she is at the beck and call of jazz musicians who need to go to, say, Circuit City or Rite Aid. Isn't that a nice escape from corporate America?

Speaking of corporate America, that's where Tammy met the Jazz Cafe's owners Kennedy and Mascot as well as the general manager, Dirk.

By the way, where is Corporate America? Is it in the vicinity of Middle America? Can you reach it from Central America?

I'm just wondering.

People grouse about Corporate America, but it must be nice. Everybody running the Jazz Cafe smiles a lot. They are so nice. Apparently, nobody has told them that jazz musicians are mostly a sour bunch.

Not me and my band, of course.

After Charlotte, we went to Nashville, where we received more insight on job descriptions. The server at the hotel restaurant was a comical blonde from Kentucky who was actually a harmonica player and karaoke D.J. in real life. She established an easy rapport by addressing us by our job descriptions.

"What would you like, Artist?", she asked, referring to me.

Then: "More ice tea, Management?", she asked Luther.

And so on. Carl Cox was "Saxophone", Will Brock became "Vocals", and Donald Robinson, who in real life is a choir director (as well as keyboardist and producer, and composer), was referred to as "Minister of Music. The best part, though, was Lucien Dowdell's new name: "Production".

The irony of ironies is that I had just given Lucien a promotion - from tech to production manager. This promotion does not come with an increase in salary, but the change in status is intoxicating, I'm sure.

I like Nashville. It's obviously a great place for music and strangers are friendly. It seems I've been there a lot the last couple years - to teach at Victor Wooten's Bass/Nature Camp, attend a trade show, and last year, I played Darryl Griffin's festival.

Darryl and his partners brought us down to play Nashville again - in a club this time. If the harmonica playing waitress ever met Darryl, she would undoubtedly dub him, "Promoter".

Before soundcheck, "Promoter" took me to WFSK to do a live on air interview with Tory Barnett. Let's call her "Dee Jay".


When we arrived at WFSK, Promoter called to tell DeeJay he had arrived with Artist. The station, owned by Fisk University, is on the fifth floor of a campus high rise. Since it was a Sunday, "Security" was off duty, and DeeJay had to run down five flights of stairs to open the locked door. After an exceedingly courteous hello - for someone who had just navigate five flights with high heels - she led Promoter and Artist up five flights to the studio.

We arrived in the studio just in time to hear a Stanley Clarke tune fading. Tory, aka Dee Jay, calmly put on her headphones and said in a breathy voice, "You're listening to Sentimental Sundays on WFSK 88.1".

Impressive.

From my new foray into radio, I appreciate how difficult it is to switch gears like that, although, I can't fully appreciate the trickiness of going up and down five flights with high heels and still have some charm left.

What's even more impressive, however, is that later that evening, Tory came on stage and sang a "Nancy Wilson meets Erika Badu" version of Summertime with the band. She sounded great. That's right, she's also "Singer".

Multi-talented people abound at WFSK. After my show that night, I met another radio personality who is a Phd. in real life and yet another who introduced himself to me wearing his chef uniform.

I'm convinced all this role switching would give Tammy Greene conniptions in her Corporate America day gig. What does she do when she's not carting jazz musicians around Charlotte?

Human Resources, of course.

August 25, 2005
Riding in the Van with Tammy

You know it's going to be a good day when the promoter picks you up wearing a Donovan McNabb jersey. Tammy Greene, originally a Philly girl has opened a venue in Charlotte that is the envy of the Southland. It's nice to know folks like her migrate to warmer climates and business opportunities but keep the Eagles close to their hearts.

Since the Eagles are in the midst of a public relations nightmare, they could use the support of their fans. But you probably don't care - you might be a Dallas Cowboys fan which means you've been putting pins in a Terrell Owens voodoo doll in the off-season.

Anyway, this is not about the Eagles. It's about Tammy. Did you know it's her birthday? How do I know? She mentioned it once or twice. In fact, she said the reason we're here is to commemorate her special day.

I don't think she was kidding

As I sit in the mini van she drove to personally pick us up, I am starting to feel guilty that the band didn't bring flowers or a citation from the Mayor of Philadelphia. I have exactly five hours before showtime and I need to come up with some sort of suitable gift for a hometown girl who loves jazz.

What do you give the promoter that has everything?

Of course, an audience! Duh...

There's going to be a great crowd at the Jazz Cafe tonight - for sure. But I want to see one of those standing-around-the-corner waiting to see the Rolling Stones kind of lines at the club

Here's how you can help: visit the website www.thejazzcafenc.com and buy your ticket or tell someone that you know in Charlotte to buy a ticket. We're playing the Jazz Cafe today, August 25th and tomorrow as well.

This is not for me, it's for Tammy. By the way, I like her already. She is optimistic. I like optimistic people. What else would you call a person who endeavors to load a seven person mini van with eight people, instruments and luggage?

Optimistic.

August 22

When I’m juggling all the extra-curricular stuff I do with actually earning a living as a musician, it’s hard to keep up these journal entries. This is too bad, since I enjoy seeing my thoughts on a computer monitor. It’s a great way to reassure myself that my brain is working. One-word-at-time.

Since the last journal entry, I’ve been - as my friend John Ernesto says - “runnin’ and gunnin’”

* Hosted two broadcasts of my radio show on WJJZ.
* Hosted two episodes of a new Hi Definition television show, called Music Lab. Guests were Paul Jackson, Jr. and Bela Fleck.
* Went to the Chicago area for Candid Conversations & Jazz, a unique event created by Denise Jordan Walker, featuring frank discussion and music by yours truly in front of a live audience
* Was interviewed by a half dozen journalists from Johannesburg to Nashville.
* Played the CD 101.9 smooth jazz cruise in New York
* Was featured in a Memphis concert along with Boney James, Phil Perry and Pieces of a Dream
* Performed at the Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula, California with Pieces of a Dream and Mike Philips
* Played my Philadelphia CD release concert at the World Café Live.

That was the last eight days. I’m not saying I’m tired, but I feel like a bootleg version of myself. I look a little grainy and my coloring is off. The sound of my voice is garbled too, like there’s dust in it. When someone suggests that I’m probably exhausted, I answer, “I feel fine”, but my saggy eyes betray me.

I’m not complaining. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do what I do. And I have boundless energy. I’m definitely willing to travel.

I had to say all that in case you are a Hollywood movie producer who is considering me for the next blockbuster that needs a hunky black action hero.

Good night.

August 14

The Way It Is
Today’s another hot one, making this officially a heat wave. Weathercasters warn, “Don’t go out unless you really have to.” The heat index numbers on the regional weather map are all in the triple digits.

I like to think of myself as sanguine about the weather – that I can take it, no matter what it is. My motto is Run DMC’s “It’s like that…and that’s the way it is”. In other words it’s hot, we can’t change it, so just deal with it.

If only it were that simple. Complaining about the weather is a national pastime. It’s also a ready-made conversational ice-breaker:

“Another hot one, isn’t it?”

“Yep, you got that right!”

Or try this one:

“Can you believe this weather?”

“Phew. This is crazy!

The possibilities are limitless.

On the first day of my first trip to South Africa, one of the local tour organizers said to me, “It’s so hot”, while fanning himself. I thought, “What do you expect? This is Africa!” It would have been impolite to say it out loud. Maybe he was just establishing a rapport with me. How was he to know that complaining about things you can’t change gets on my nerves?

I need to be more tolerant.

I am starting to understand that suffering under the common abuse of bad weather, bonds us together. If you could get the U.N. ambassadors of two hostile countries, for example, to agree on how hot it is, imagine the progress in international relations:

“Mr. Ambassador, we find your demands to be totally unacceptable, but could we take a moment to get some lemonade? I’m parched.”

“Well, my government is extremely disappointed at your unwillingness to meet us halfway, but maybe we should consider an icy cold beverage. With this kind of heat, lemonade is certainly an excellent choice.”

“Can you believe this weather?”

“Phew. Another hot one, indeed, Mr. Ambassador.”

“Please, call me Frank. More lemonade?”

“Thanks, Frank. Now, where were we?”

“We were discussing your government’s demands, which I suggest we reconsider at poolside.”

“Brilliant!”

Based on this powerful potential for establishing common ground, I am softening my stance against weather-complainers. Whining about the heat index is perfectly acceptable in the interest of world peace.

By the way, the current heat wave here in the Delaware Valley is expected to break by next Sunday - just in time for my CD release party at World Café Live (www.worldcafelive.com). However, if the oppressive heat continues, it will give us more to talk about – won’t it?

August 13
Sweat and Icons

This morning’s TV weather report promises a heat index of 105 degrees later today. The thought of it makes me melt already. It also changes my plans for this rare weekend off. I had planned to do some house painting. The weatherman has provided me with an excellent excuse to postpone this project.

Thank you, Accu Weather, whoever you are.

In terms of heat, last night here in Philadelphia wasn’t much better. Roxanne and I attended The Trio concert last night at the Mann Music Center. We put aside thoughts of the sweltering heat and met friends of ours from Reading at the show. The crew from Reading was the usual suspects, John Ernesto and his cohorts who came down to Philly in a stretch limo. Style.

Thanks again, Ramona, for the tickets.

We had great seats to watch Bela Fleck, Jean Luc-Ponty and Stanley Clarke play some of the most inventive music I’ve heard in a while. Thanks to Ramona, who is obviously well connected, our seats were just a few rows from the front. The only problem was that at the Mann, an outdoor amphitheater under a shed, the closer you were to the stage the hotter you were. If you sat perfectly still, you could close your eyes and imagine it was only 90 degrees.

Thanks again, Ramona, for the tickets.

It was the kind of heat that you can smell. There’s dry heat, there’s muggy heat and there’s heat that has a distinctly unpleasant aroma. Under these conditions, you’re bound to discover that someone has forgotten to apply an anti-perspirant. You check to make sure it’s not you. I know what you’re thinking – it wasn’t me – at least I don’t think so.

I’m not being critical. What else would you expect to happen when you assemble over two thousand people and place them in an incubator designed to keep out the elements - like cool air? Exactly. Heat you can smell.

I’m not complaining, though. As a rule, I don’t complain about the weather. Besides, I was treated to a wonderful concert. Bela Fleck was excellent. He played some of the trickiest passages you could imagine on his 1931 vintage banjo. Meanwhile, he barely broke a sweat – though he did wear a black headband just in case.

Violinist Jean Luc-Ponty, who was a bit more animated on stage, probably sweated a little – though certainly not because of the difficulty of the music. He approached every song, no matter how complex, as though it was as manageable as brushing your teeth. And his solos contained one climactic moment after another – there didn’t seem to be any limits to the heights he could reach.

Most of the sweating was reserved for Stanley Clarke. His playing on acoustic bass (except for one tune on electric) was at times, ferocious. Stanley was “good cop/bad cop” all rolled into one – interrogating a suspect – the bass. No technique was spared. He strummed it, slapped it, plucked it, and did everything you could do to a bass to make it talk. When Stanley was through, the bass had confessed all. Unfortunately, by the end of the interrogation, Stanley was soaked. His crisp white shirt eventually became a dripping, clinging annoyance.

I felt bad for Stanley Clarke. I don’t want him to be bothered by things like sweaty shirts. That’s for the rest of us bass players. Stanley is an icon.

Stanley is the guy who invented this “bass player in the front” thing that I do. I don’t care who else you might mention to differ with me. There is no debate. It’s Stanley Clarke, who, back in the heady days of jazz-rock fusion, went toe to toe with Chick Corea and changed the idea of what a bass could (and should) do.

Thank you Stanley Clarke.

Maybe that’s what I should say to Stanley next time I meet him. I always get tongue tied in his presence and end up saying something dumb. Once, he and I happened to be working in the same studio facility here in town. Someone came into the studio where I was working with the juicy tidbit, “Stanley Clarke’s upstairs. Stop up and say hi.” I went to see my hero, trying to appear casual, all the while rehearsing what I would say.

I opened the door to the studio lounge where my hero was seated on leather couch having a laugh with some of his friends. For a few seconds, none of them saw me and they were still enjoying this apparently good joke. When I entered their space, however, the laughter died down. I immediately felt like an intruder or bill collector.

“Hi, Stanley, Gerald Veasley”, I extended my hand for a handshake. We shook hands, but he didn’t get up. I had met Stanley Clarke three times before. I have met him a couple times since. I will never assume he knows who I am. Whenever I greet him, I will always say my name.

“Hey, man, how are you?” Stanley asked.

Have you ever tried to make small talk with an icon? It’s like trying to start a car with a dead battery. No matter how hard you want it to go somewhere, it just won’t.

“Fine, thanks. How you doin’?” I inquired, ever so casually.

“Great”.

“So you’re in town working on your new record, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“How’s it going?”

“It’s going great.”

“Great.”

Pause. I noticed his friends were studying me as though they were watching a TV report of a flood. They were wearing expressions of pity, mixed with relief that they weren’t the ones with their houses underwater.

I thought about the next thread of delightful banter then I started in again with more dead-end Q&A. To his credit, Stanley was polite. He let me go on and on, about this and that, without dismissing me. To my credit, I got out of the studio lounge without a Jerry Lewis style tripping-over-your-own-feet incident. Come to think of it, a good fall would have insured Stanley remembering our meeting. Forever.

By now, I know you’re probably thinking “Stanley Clarke puts his pants on ‘one leg at a time’ like everybody else.”

Ok. But... what if he doesn’t?

Visit www.stanleyclarke.com and also check out The Trio if they’re in your town. It’s worth the sweat.

If you’re in the Philadelphia area next Sunday, you’re invited to my CD release concert at the World Café Live - www.worldcafelive.com. This will be my first hometown appearance in almost a year. It’s going to be a great show. I’m putting in extra practice – trust me.

Thank you Stanley Clarke.

August 8, 2005

If you are a frequent visitor here and you noticed no recent entries, it's because I went on vacation with my family. I took along my laptop, but I was not interested in using it. I used my Blackberry only in case of a dire emergency - like if somebody needed my new CD or something.

I'm back online now and TJ and I are enjoying a slice of carrot cake in a Border's book store. She's really into crafts these days - the one she's decided on today is a bracelet maker. A couple of weeks ago she made a potholder with the loom Roxanne picked up for her.

This is great. Pretty soon she'll be knitting clothes for the whole family. She will be the envy of the fourth grade and I will have a new look. Colorful and warm, too.

My reason for coming to Border's is to check on my new record. It's nice when you see it there with everybody else's.

Incidentally, I noticed in the jazz section there are a lot of CD covers featuring people holding saxophones.

It's rare to see someone holding a bass guitar. I have nothing to add to that observation - it's just something I noticed. Actually - I'm embarassed to say it - it makes me feel special.

I have a guerilla marketing tactic that I employ in record stores. When I see my CD, I casually pick it up and peruse the cover as though I'm going to buy it. Then after glancing around to make sure no one is looking, I place my record in front of the others.

I admit this is an effort that requires patience and cunning. It also means having to visit about a thousand stores a week.

Hey, no pain, no gain.

Do you want to know what I'm buying?

Carlos Santana - Abraxas

David Sanborn - Closer

Joss Stone - Mind, Body & Soul

By the way, the carrot cake is tasty.

July 28
Belated Birthdays

I've been getting a lot of belated birthday wishes lately. Please stop feeling guilty. It's not a big deal - for two reasons:

1) There's always Kwaanza

2) My birthday is actually today.

Surprise. You didn't miss it. You just missed the party.

Incidentally, I missed the 35th birthday of a dear friend of mine, Jazz Times magazine. To make amends, I sent the letter you can read below.

Meanwhile, please stop feeling guilty and send me some chocolate.

What Do You Buy A 35 Year Old Magazine?

Dear Jazz Times,

Thanks for the subtle reminder that I missed your 35th birthday this year. I know you probably never forgave me for missing your 30th, but as I told you at the time, I was really busy. Or not feeling well - I don’t remember which.

This time around, I couldn’t decide what to get you, so I’m contacting you directly to find out what you would like for your birthday. I know you like surprises but I’m the worst gift giver. One Christmas, I surprised my wife with an expensive coat when she had asked for a watch. She tried it on and said, “Well, it’s a beautiful coat.” I have learned my lesson.

Before bothering you with this, by the way, I actually called some of your magazine friends to see what they thought you might like. I called Newsweek, who said “No comment”. I called both DownBeat and Jazziz who did not return my phone calls. I even called Fortune who pretended to not be familiar with you. Didn’t you tell me you guys went to Amherst together?

My wife said, “Just think about what you wanted when you turned 35”. I’m not so sure that works, in this case. At 35, I wanted to be rich and famous, play jazz and have a set of washboard abs. You can bounce a quarter off my belly.

Besides, you have done it all and seen it all. You’ve been around the world and met some of the most fascinating people, from Wynton Marsalis to …Wynton Marsalis. Just kidding.

You do have it all, though, J.T. I can remember when you were an awkward adolescent tabloid, searching for approval. You’ve grown to be so confident and dare I say it – good looking. You are the Tom Cruise of magazines, buff and shiny with strong, thoroughly researched opinions. My only hope is that one day, you will find your soul mate like Tom did. Is it true that you and Elle are an item?

To show you I’m serious about your birthday present, I’d like to show you a list of some of the gifts I’ve considered:

1) A Blackberry. I couldn’t survive without mine. This way you could return emails from readers and publicists while you’re sunning in Belize.

2) A spa treatment. I saw this luxurious place on the Today show where you could get pampered for about $1000 a day. You’re so stressed. I could ask George Wein to chip in.

3) A consultation with a psychic. There is a psychic who, for $175, can tell you everything you want to know. She’s very good – all I need is the exact time and date of your birth. Maybe she can tell you “the future of jazz”, since you’re always asking.

4) A Louis Vitton satchel. I have one myself. A friend of mine brought it back from Canal St. in New York. My wife says it’s fake. She’s envious. Besides, you know me; I would never illegally download a designer handbag. Knowingly.

5) A golf lesson with a pro I know down there in Silver Springs. This is my way of suggesting you stop playing pick up games of basketball. You’re not a kid anymore.

You can see my dilemma, J.T.

Let me know what you really want. What you really, really want. Money is no object.

Another thing. Did you have a party? I’m sorry about what I said to Nancy Wilson at your barbecue last year – two beers is my limit.

Your friend,

Gerald

 

FacebookRevrb Nation Twitter Wordpress Youtube

All rights reserved | Site design and hosting by Reading Eagle Company Internet Services.